The Oklahoma City Barons have some interesting rookies on the way for 2014-15, and I believe Bogdan Yakimov is the most likely to emerge as an NHL prospect in his first season with the Barons. Other talent that looks likely to emerge? A Finn, a college kid, and a bunch of WHL grads who will be pushing for OKC playing time and a chance to make it to the show.
OILERS PROSPECTS IN OKC (RE 14-15 BARONS FORWARDS)
|C BOGDAN YAKIMOV-rookie||64||22||23||45|
|R ANDREW MILLER||65||14||30||44|
|R IIRO PAKARINEN-rookie||60||17||14||31|
|L MITCHELL MOROZ-rookie||70||15||15||30|
|L CURTIS HAMILTON||60||13||15||28|
|C JUJHAR KHAIRA-rookie||57||7||16||23|
|C TRAVIS EWANYK||61||6||10||16|
|R MITCH HOLMBERG-rookie||35||7||7||14|
|L KELLEN JONES-rookie||28||3||9||12|
|L JOSH WINQUIST-rookie||35||7||4||11|
|C CONNOR JONES-rookie||28||2||8||10|
|L KALE KESSY||30||2||2||4|
It seems to me the new hires (Yakimov, Pakarinen, Moroz and Khaira) will be more productive overall than the established group still trying to make the grade. That group is represented here by Miller, Hamilton, Ewanyk and Kessy. I’m assuming that Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick stay in the NHL all season, but that’s far from established and should be noted here.
THE PROSPECTS IN OKLAHOMA CITY
- Bogdan Yakimov—I think he might be the best offensive prospect since Toni Rajala, who delivered a point-per-game at age 21. Yakimov is a mountain, MacT likes him, and the KHL boxcars in less than 10 minutes a night are impressive. I don’t remember this many good offensive arrows since Rajala.
- Andrew Miller—He performed well after Christmas, and Miller might have a chance. It’s a long shot, but based on his AHL season in 2013-14, there might be a player here. This is certainly a better bet than hiring an AHL veteran for your skill lines.
- Iiro Pakarinen—Under the radar signing could end up surprising in training camp and grabbing Pitlick’s NHL job. He apparently has a good wrist shot and isn’t afraid of traffic. Complete wild card.
- Mitchell Moroz—A tough player to project into pro hockey, he might score 15 points all year depending on where they play him. I’m going to guess he gets regular work with a reasonable center and some time 5×4.
- Curtis Hamilton—Last chance Texaco, I see Hamilton getting a bit of a push in TOI but not in actual linemates. I have Ryan Hamilton and Jesse Joensuu ahead of him on LW, and Moroz in the same range. I don’t believe it’s at all clear Moroz starts the season clearly behind Hamilton, and injuries have been a factor every season for him in Oklahoma City. I’m cheering for him, but the evidence isn’t pretty.
- Jujhar Khaira—I think he’s the future 3C but am having a hard time finding the range for his offense. I’m going to guess he gets very little PP time but does spend some EV time with good, veteran linemates. If he lines up with Joensuu and Pinizzotto, he should have a fine year. He might spend time with the Hamiltons, too.
- Travis Ewanyk—The concern for Moroz is that the club puts him on a line with Ewanyk. They played a shutdown role together in Edmonton, but Ewanyk lacks offensive ability. With Yakimov and Khaira arriving on the scene, Ewanyk will fight with those two and Will Acton for playing time (I’m assuming Jason Williams gets the tall order at 1C).
- Mitch Holmberg—He begins a gang of four on this list that I’ve shared half-seasons with and guessed on the output. Holmberg scored 62 goals last season, so he could easily emerge as a regular in OKC this fall. I’m guessing it takes time to adjust.
- Kellen Jones—I have the twins dividing their seasons between Bakersfield and Oklahoma City, with the offensive results being good not great. I think these guys can play, but they’re going to have to wait their turn for at-bats. In the case of Kellen Jones, I think Moroz gets the LW push among the new hires.
- Josh Winquist—As with Holmberg, we’re just seeing which lefty bat catches fire in training camp and then we can slot him in next season as the cleanup hitter. Contests like this always remind me of Mark McGwire v. Rob Nelson—at one time it was a close race. These guys can swing the lumber, there’s probably a player here. Which one?
- Connor Jones—I think he’s the lesser Jones, but not by much. I’m nicking him because he’s a center, and the Oilers have youngsters ahead of him they value more. Still, it’s a solid bet this fellow is going to have a pro career should he decide to pursue one. Maybe we’re looking at the beginning of Wayne Schaab 2.0
- Kale Kessy—This would be the season to establish himself as something more than a pugilist. Edmonton employs one of those at the NHL level who is basically the same age as Kessy, so if there’s some hockey acumen there he needs to speak now or forever hold his peace.
The Barons sent defensemen Jeff Petry, Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom to Edmonton, helping the blue line in a big way. Up front, it’s been less impressive, with Anton Lander, Mark Arcobello and Tyler Pitlick emerging as options. I think Bogdan Yakimov has a chance to be an NHL player of note, and his first season in the AHL should be a successful one.
Godspeed, Bogdan. And maybe Edmonton gets a break and one of these other guys emerges at the same time.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN 1260. Texts at 10-1260, @Lowetide_. I’ll have Jonathan Willis from Oilers Nation and Cult of Hockey at 10:05, we’ll talk about the Barons, Yakimov and other things. After that, it’s Guy Flaming from the Pipeline Show, I’m going to ask him about Sonny Milano’s signing with Columbus and the Kevin Hayes group of free agents who didn’t sign with the NHL teams.
At 11, Scott Cullen of TSN will pop in, we’ll talk about NHL, CFL, NFL, MLB and other things (Cullen can talk about anything, so if you have a question this is the day to bring it). At 11:25, I’ll be joined by Jeff Hauser of Radio Hauser. We’ll talk about Johnny Football, who last night looked more like Johnny Bravo.
Anyway, 10 to noon, TSN 1260. I thank you for tuning in.